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19 Fun and Fascinating Horse Facts

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horse facts

Impress your friends and rock Trivial Pursuit with this list of fun horse facts!

  1. One horse equals 14.9 horse power (Source)
  2. Horses have the largest eyes of any land mammal (Source)
  3. Equestrian events (under saddle and chariot racing) were a part of the first Olympic games (Source
  4. Like fingerprints, each zebra’s stripe pattern is unique (Source)
  5. Horse teeth never stop growing (Source)
  6. Horses have 10 muscles in each ear, allowing them to rotate their ears 180 degrees (Source)
  7. Horses have 8 common blood types (Source)
  8. When cantering, a horse takes a breath with every stride. (Source)
  9. Horses breath through their nose, not their mouth (Source)
  10. Horses use more energy when they lay down than when they stand up (Source)
  11. Horses cannot throw up (Source)
  12. When horses look like they’re “laughing”, they’re actually displaying a “flehmen” response (Source)
  13. A horse’s teeth take up a larger amount of space in their head than their brain (Source)
  14. The first cloned horse was a Haflinger mare in Italy in 2003 (Source)
  15. The fastest recorded sprinting speed of a horse was 70.76 kph (43.97 mph) (Source)
  16. Equinophobia is the fear of horses (Source)
  17. Horses do not have a gallbladder (Source)
  18. It is extremely unlikely to see all horses in a herd lying down simultaneously. This is because at least one horse will stand as a look-out in order to be able to alert the others of any potential dangers (Source)
  19. The longest lived horse on record was Old Billy who lived to be 62 (Source)

 

April 11, 2016 |

Music to ride to

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music and horses

Music is all around us. We put on music when cleaning the house, having a party or driving the car so why not while we’re riding? Playing music while riding has a number of benefits such as providing a sort of “white noise” so that the horse isn’t distracted by every little creak and bump (or at this time of the year, snow sliding off of the roof of the indoor arena!) It is also great background noise for those who ride alone.  If you do not have a radio close by, there are a number of devices you can use to take music wherever you go, be it on your phone or mp3 player, or through portable speakers.

music and horses

For myself, having music make the time go by quicker when I’m putting conditioning miles on my horse.  It also shakes things up a bit as I try to ride in time to the music. Although I’m a die-hard country fan, my ideal riding playlist includes a bit of rock and pop too, just because they have great beats to ride to.

 

My Riding Playlist

Luke Bryan – Country Girl (Shake It For Me)

U2 – Vertigo

Garth Brooks – Ain’t Goin Down (Til The Sun Comes Up)

Europe – The Final Countdown

Tim Hicks – Here Comes the Thunder

Survivor – Eye of the Tiger

Ariana Grande – Break Free

AC/DC – Thunderstruck

Jimmy Eat World – The Middle

Avicii – Wake Me Up

Kip Moore – Wild Ones

Fall Out Boy – My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)

Macklemore – Can’t Hold Us

DJ Khalid – All I Do Is Win

Saliva – Click Click Boom

Missy Elliot – Lose Control

Eric Church – The Outsiders

Sam Hunt – House Party

Chase Rice – Ready Set Let’s Roll

Lady Gaga – Applause

Andy Grammer – Honey, I’m Good

 

What would you include on your riding playlist?

music note

April 5, 2016 |

Finding that balance

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Like many riders, I have to balance time at the barn with work, family, friends, and everything else life throws at me. It’s not an easy feat to be able to be able to find time for it all. Aside from my full time job, I also write for a number of blogs and am training for a number of endurance rides with my horse this year, one of them being my first FEI ride. I’ve put together a few of the tips and tricks I use when trying to find that perfect balance.  I hope you find them helpful and please feel free to comment and share any things you do to manage your busy schedule.

clock

  1. Time Management. This is the big one. Time management is a great skill to have and will help you in any part of your life. Purchase a day planner (or use the calendar app on your phone) and write down everything you schedule.  Start with the non-negotiable items that cannot be moved such as school exams, work deadlines, etc. Then add any big events you would like to attend such as horse shows, weddings, or vacations.  Lastly, add the things that are flexible such as gym days or riding time.  Learn to be flexible. Things are not going to always go according to plan so you may have to skip a task in favour of something else.

 

  1. Relaxing is important too! It sounds silly but I schedule my downtime too. You are not superhuman and need time to recharge after going full speed. It all comes back to that one word: balance. Take a nap, watch some tv, hang out with friends.  It’s needed for your health and sanity!

 relax

  1. Use your horse as your motivation. Have a dreadful task at hand? In order to power through it, make your reward for completing it a trip to the barn, or going tack shopping! 
  1. Get help. Help can come in many forms.  Recruit a friend or find a part-boarder to help keep your horse in shape. Hire a babysitter a few nights here and there to give you some time off to yourself.  If possible, share work responsibilities with a co-worker. Finding help that you trust is also important as you don’t want to be worrying about that as well. This also carries over to coaching and barn care.  You don’t want to be worrying about a work project or an exam while stressing over whether or not the barn owner is taking care of your horse properly or if the person riding your horse is following your instructions. 
  1. Know your limits and have fun! Saying no is ok. You cannot do everything, even less so when your mental or physical health is suffering because you are pushing yourself too hard. Remember, horses are supposed to be fun. If you’re not enjoying yourself, you’re doing it wrong! . From time to time you will have to look at your schedule and perhaps find something that you need to cut out in order for the balance to be there.
fun

Photo credit to Barry Chadbolt

March 30, 2016 |

Homemade Horse Treats

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What horse doesn’t enjoy horse treats?! My horse Splash will eat pretty much anything; she does not discriminate.  This makes her the perfect taste tester for different horse treat recipes because if she won’t eat it, nobody will! Here are a few of my tried and true (and very easy to make!) horse treat recipes.

After Ride Cookies

What You’ll Need:

1 cup flour

3/4 cup beer

2 cups molasses

1 pound oats

1/2 cup raisins

What To Do:

  • Mix the flour, beer, and molasses thoroughly. Add oats to mixture slowly and mix well. Finally, mix in raisins.
  • Pour this mixture into an oiled 12-by-15-inch pan, and place in a 250°F oven.
  • When the mixture starts to firm up (about 25 minutes), remove the pan and cut the contents into bite-sized pieces. Then, return the pan to the over and bake until the treats are mostly dry and fairly firm (roughly 40 minutes).
  • After removing the pan from the oven, let it cool before removing the treats.
  • Place the treats on cooling racks overnight.

*Just a side note, these are also delicious for human consumption too!

 

No Bake Peppermint Thumbprints

What You’ll Need:

1 cup rolled oats

¼ cup water

1 to 2 tbsp. molasses

5 peppermints

What To Do:

  • Mix the oats and water until the oats are damp.
  • Add molasses by the tablespoon until the mixture is sticky.
  • Roll into balls and press peppermint in the middle of each cookie.
  • Put in refrigerator (uncovered) to harden.

peppermint horse treats

CARROT AND APPLE HORSE COOKIES

What You’ll Need:

1 cup sweet feed

2 cups bran

1 cup flax seed

4 large carrots, shredded

1 cup molasses

½ cup brown sugar (one half cup)

1 cup applesauce

What to Do:

  • Mix molasses, brown sugar, carrots and applesauce in one bowl. In another mix the dry ingredients.
  • Slowly combine the molasses mixture with the dry ingredients. Add only enough molasses mixture to form a thick dough, add more bran if necessary.
  • Line cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Using a tablespoon, drop batter onto cookie sheet and flatten slightly to form portions about the size of a silver dollar.
  • Bake at 300 degrees for about 1 hour. Flip and bake for an additional 45 minutes until they are dried out. Keep checking to make sure they don’t burn.
March 23, 2016 |

Camping with your horse

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If you’ve ever wanted to go camping with your horse, there’s no better time than now! Many people are looking to get away from the stress of the show ring and just enjoy the trails with their horse. Just like choosing a campground to go to with your friends or family,  you need to consider what campground offers what you are looking for.  Do you just want to ride trails or do you want to partake in other activities besides riding? Are you camping under the stars in a tent or do you need space for a large trailer? Do the campsites have permanent stalls or corrals or do you have to provide your own containment for your horse?

horse camping

In addition to answering these questions, here are a few more things to consider when deciding to go horse camping:

  1. Ensure your horse has the correct papers and vaccines. Some campsites may require all horses on site to have a current negative Coggins test. With unfamiliar horses around and more insects to contend with, consider discussing with your veterinarian what vaccines they recommend as well.
  2. Is whatever you are using to contain your horse overnight sufficient and safe? Is your horse used to being high tied/hobbled/respectful of electric fencing. These are good things to test at home before you travel somewhere unfamiliar.
  3. Have you packed enough hay and food for your horse (and yourself!). Some places will have hay/feed/bedding for purchase. Others will require you to bring your own. Also, depending on where you are going to camp, are you able to properly store feed (for both human and horse) to avoid any visits from forest animals.
  4. Is your horse adequately prepared to handle the physical demand of your outing. It is unfair to pull a horse out of pasture who hasn’t been in regular work and ask him to go for a 10 mile trail ride. If you’ve been a couch potato for weeks or months, you would probably find it difficult to go for a 10 mile hike too! Also do some research on the terrain you will be crossing.  Consider putting shoes on your horse or getting a pair of horse boots.
  5. Prepare a first aid kit for both horse and human in the event of any injuries on trail.
  6. Don’t forget to review the rules of the campground. Be prepared to take home anything you bring (including manure) and always clean up your campsite before leaving.
Horse camping corral

Horse corral set up at Sandaraska Park

Here is a list of some horse campgrounds in Ontario. If you have any more to add, please let us know!

Sandaraska Park – http://www.sandaraskapark.ca/equestrian-camping 

Horse Country Campground – http://www.horsecountrycampground.com/

Douglas Equestrian Campground – http://www.douglasequestriancampground.ca/

Quardream – http://www.quardream.com/

Saugeen Bluffs – http://www.svca.on.ca/ca.php?page=horsecamping

South Algonquin Trails – http://www.southalgonquintrails.com/

 

March 21, 2016 |

Rider Fitness

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While our horses’ fitness is a high priority for most riders, not all of us take our own fitness so seriously. We’ve all heard “Riding isn’t a sport. You just sit there and the horse does all the work” but watch anyone try and walk around after riding if they have been out of the saddle for a long period of time. All riders should have a strong core, good balance and good general flexibility. Lack of fitness not only results in soreness and muscle strain at a time when you need to be performing at your best, but it can contribute to lower scores or even accidents when your body doesn’t respond precisely when you need it to, or starts to collapse with fatigue throwing off your horse’s balance.

rider fitness 1

After a number of accidents in the eventing discipline, the United States Eventing Association and the United States Equestrian Federation examined rider fitness and how it was connected to horse performance at their annual safety summit.  One of the speakers, Hilary Clayton, BVMs, PhD, MRCVS, Mary Anne McPhail Dressage Chair in Equine Sports Medicine at Michigan State University, said “a horse performs better with a physically fit rider who controls his or her positioning. A tired, unfit rider’s lack of balance or unpredictable movement disrupts a horse’s rhythm and balance, and it requires the horse to use more energy.” http://www.thehorse.com/articles/21323/eventing-safety-the-question-of-rider-fitness.

Rider fitness can also affect the soundness of your horse. Most people are generally asymmetrical and although this can be corrected through training programs, when we are tired we naturally revert back to old habits.  Reducing uneven pressure points on the horse’s back allows the horse to work more freely through his body and achieve a longer, more reaching stride.

A study performed in 2015 examined the effects of an 8-week unmounted rider core fitness program on rider symmetry (http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/uwic/ujpa/2015/00000015/00000003/art00031). Although the researchers noted that further larger scale studies were needed, there was sufficient evidence to support the development of evidence-based, sport-specific equestrian rider fitness programs.

rider fitness 3

Equine Canada is in the process of creating an Equine Long Term Athlete Development Guide, whose goal is to develop a systemic approach to maximize participants’/athletes’ potential and involvement in equestrian sport. They currently have draft guides published for the sports of dressage, eventing, and hunter/jumper and are currently working on creating guides for most of the disciplines. http://canadiansportforlife.ca/resources/equestrian-ltad-equine-canada

There are many articles out there to give you ideas on different exercises that you can do to help improve your fitness.  Remember to start slow and it would be wise to consult with a doctor or fitness expert to help create a program tailored to you and your needs.

To get you started, here are a few stretching exercises that you can do prior to hopping in the saddle: http://trailridermag.com/article/three-stretches-to-prevent-horseback-riding-injuries.

 

rider fitness 2

“Get fit to ride, not ride to get fit.”

March 14, 2016 |

Spring cleaning around the barn

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With many locations in southern and central Ontario reaching into the teens this week, it feels like spring is almost here. Although most of us would rather be riding in this gorgeous weather, we should take the time to do some spring cleaning around the barn. Here is a short checklist of activities to do in order to get your barn warm weather ready.

horse barn spring cleaning

  1. Remove cobwebs. Not only will it make your barn cleaner, it will make your barn safer. Cobwebs can be a fire hazard and with all of the barn fires in Ontario this year, you will want to reduce your risk as much as possible.
  2. Now is the time to go through your tack collection and figure out what needs cleaning, replacing, repairing, or giving away. There are lots of tack swaps this time of year so you could potentially make some money to put towards new tack while getting rid of the items you no longer need or use.
  3. Spring time is probably when your hay supply is at its lowest.  Cleaning out all of the loose hay not only prepares the loft for when fresh hay comes in, removing any mouldy hay will reduce the chances of any of it spontaneously combusting and causing a fire.
  4. Go through your horse (and human) first aid/medical kits and throw out and replace any items that have expired.
  5. Schedule an appointment with your vet to have a physical exam done, vaccinations administered, and answer any questions you may have
  6. Take your truck and trailer in for a safety check. After sitting all winter, your rig may have been damaged in some way from either winter weather, rodents or general wear and tear from the previous season.
  7. Clean winter blankets by either sending them to the cleaners or doing it yourself. Cleaning and storing blankets will tidy up your barn aisles.
  8. While this should be done on a regular basis as well, take the time to check your fences, stalls and any other areas your horses frequent for anything that needs repairing. Spending the time and effort now could save you from dealing with any injuries later on.
March 7, 2016 |

Conditioning your horse after a break

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Chances are if you live in Canada, you are going to experience a cold winter at some point. Even if you are lucky enough to have an indoor arena, you have probably experienced those weeks (or even months) of not riding. However, when the temperature starts rising again and show or trail riding season starts coming up, if your horse has not been in regular work, you will need to develop a routine to get back into it in order to reduce the risk of injuring him in the process. Imagine your first day at the gym after a long break. You may be all gung ho, but it’s best to work up to where you want to be slowly to avoid injury.

It may be a good idea to have your vet out to perform a complete physical exam to ensure there are no bumps, or lameness issues that could be aggravated in the conditioning process (much like you would consult with your doctor before beginning a new diet or physical activity routine).

Conditioning is not just about how far or fast your horse can go before breaking a sweat or start to breathe heavy. You need to work on a number of different body systems such as the cardiovascular system, muscular system, supporting structures, temperature regulating system and the central nervous system.  Everything that you do should be done gradually. It can take up to 4-6 months for adaptations to take effect. Start off with low impact exercises such as walking and gradually increase time and speed (never both at the same time).

If you have a solid conditioning foundation, you will probably find that not only do you have a reduced risk of injury (and therefore less time having fun riding), but you will probably notice that you have a happier horse since he it will be easy for him to do the job at hand.

References:

http://www.thehorse.com/articles/12827/getting-your-horse-in-shape

http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/hrs6942

https://aerc.org/static/AssessingFitness.aspx

http://www.horsefeedblog.com/2015/03/reconditioning-after-a-winter-break/

conditioning

March 4, 2016 |
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